Workplace drugs, alcohol, weapons, and fighting

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

The Supreme Court does not tolerate employees who take drugs, or report for work under the influence of alcohol, bring in knives or guns, and engage in fights with fellow workers, customers and worse, superiors. These are considered serious misconduct, and would justify termination of employment under Article 297 of the Labor Code.

In a number of cases, the highest court of the land, affirming or reversing lower agencies' decisions, has decided many times that management has the inherent prerogatives to protect the company and its people as well as properties from grave dangers posed by workers who are into drugs. That is why it is perfectly legal for management to conduct an unannounced or surprise drug test, provided that it is undertaken by a drug-testing center that is accredited by the Department of Health. Employees who refuse to submit themselves to such a drug test may be disciplined for insubordination or willful disobedience to a lawful order given by his superiors in relation to work.

A positive finding of drug use, provided it is corroborated by a confirmatory test, is a just cause to dismiss. I dare say that employers are not legally obliged to spend money for the rehabilitation of a drug addict. He should rehabilitate himself, spend his own money and when he is already clean to apply for reemployment, that is, if the employer still wants to hire him again. Related to drugs are cases involving alcohol. Albeit the gravity may be lesser, drunk employees may cause injury, property damage, or even arson and death. Management has the right to defend itself from such imminent dangers to lives and properties.

Bringing in of deadly weapons, including bladed instruments and firearms are also serious forms of misconduct. Security personnel should never allow these things to be brought in. Bodies, cars and motorcycles should be searched, provided that it is done with respect and without exceeding the bounds. Executives who may want to be exempted from these should be properly identified and the security unit must be informed accordingly. The worst is fighting inside company premises. The Supreme Court consistently approves dismissal as the appropriate remedy.

In one case, decided by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, two union leaders of San Miguel Corp. had a physical fight inside company premises. The two suffered physical injuries, including wounds, contusions, hematoma, and abrasions. In the police precinct, the two reconciled and dropped charges against each other. Management, however, did not forgive them. The unlawful aggressor, after due process, was dismissed. All his retirement benefits were forfeited. It was his first offense after 15 years of working in San Miguel. The Supreme Court affirmed the validity of the dismissal. Long years in service does not mitigate the penalty for serious misconduct.

This and a thousand more cases are covered in my latest book “How to Terminate Employment Legally and with Honor and Dignity”. While employers are imposed too many obligations to employees, the law and the Supreme Court protect employers from grossly undesirable employees. Justice is not just for labor but for employers as well.

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